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March 2013 Odd Wisconsin

Harry Selfridge, Merchant Prince

This week public television aired the first episode of a new British series dramatizing the life of Wisconsin native Harry Gordon Selfridge. The producers call him, "the flamboyant entrepreneur and showman seeking to provide London's shoppers with the ultimate merchandise and the ultimate thrill." That may be hyperbole, but in fact much of the consumer culture that surrounds us began,...
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Posted in Odd Lives on March 31, 2013

Looking Down on the Competition

According to local legend, fur trader Michel Brisbois (1759-1837) had himself interred high on a bluff over Prairie du Chien so he could look down on his rivals forever. A Fierce Competition Brisbois was a fur trader who arrived in Wisconsin in 1781 and thumbed his nose at the rich and powerful for the next four decades. He undercut more...
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Posted in Strange Deaths on March 28, 2013

White, Black, and Green

Back in 1950, the irate owner of a Wisconsin summer resort "accosted the executive secretary of the Governor's Commission on Human Rights, shook his finger in her face, and demanded to know the names of the legislators who were responsible for the state's civil rights act." He was angry that he couldn't decide for himself who to serve or not...
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Posted in Curiosities on March 20, 2013

Fearless Woman Hunter

"In my boyhood days" recalled Augustin Grignon* in the summer of 1857, "there was an aged Chippewa woman named 0-cha-own. She was a great huntress, and spent each winter with her dogs in the woods the same as any Indian hunter, and was quite as successful in killing bear, raccoon and other game. Beside a gun,which I presume she used,...
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Posted in Odd Lives on March 14, 2013

Mary Hayes-Chynoweth, psychic healer

Here's a story for Women's History Month about a Wisconsin woman who was once well-known but is now all-but-forgotten. She embodied New Age spirituality a century before that term was invented. Here are her own words describing how it all began. "I was crossing the kitchen with a basin of water when, suddenly, some unknown Force pressed me down upon...
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Posted in Odd Lives on March 7, 2013

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